Alois Payer, 1864/1865, Jerusalem.Albumen print, 23.5 x 19 cm.

About this collection

rainworld archive houses one of Austria’s best collections of 19th & 20th century photographs from the Maghreb and the former Ottoman Empire. Pre-photographic visual documents complement the extensive inventory of vintage photographs.

Online exhibitions on the topic of orientalism and specific photographers will soon be posted here.


A. Bonfils, 1880s, 107. Le Caire, Pyramide de Chéfren. Albumen print.

Zangaki, 1880s, No.139. Les 3 Pyramides  et le Nil. Caire. Albumen print.

The first photograph of the pyramids (and the sphinx) appears to be taken by French writer and amateur photographer Maxime du Camp  in 1849. It was published in 1852. A bit later Félix Teynard  made photographs in 1853/1854, which were published by Adolphe Goupil. British photographer Francis Frith  did some excellent photographs of the same subject in 1857 (publ. 1858), and then – many others followed.

In contrast to other examples of early travel photography, photographing the pyramids was not that difficult, even in the early days of the medium: good light conditions, a dry climate, and the bold structure of the motif were in favor of the then complicated photographic process with fragile glass plates and long exposure times.

Zangaki, 1880s, No.1592. Une boef de la Nil. Albumen print.

Francis Frith, 1857, The Sphynx and the Great Pyramid, at Geezeh. Albumen print stereoview

L. Fiorillo, 1880s, 187. Les Pyramides pendant l’inondation. Albumen print.

Quite a few images show the pyramids during the Nile flood – usually with camel riders or farmers standing in the shallow water. The pyramids were built on a flood plain that suffered catastrophic inundation on a regular basis throughout history. 

A. Bonfils, Beyrouth, 1890s, 7. Vue générale des Pyramides. Collotype

BK Paris (J.A.) Grande pyramide, du pyramide de Kheops a Gizeh. Albumen print (hold to light) stereoview

Zangaki, 1880s, 440. Pyramide. Albumen print.

H. Arnoux, 1870s, No.609 La Grand pyramide de Chéops. Albumen print

G.M. Georgoulas, tourists on camels at the pyramids, 1928. Gelatin silver print

Being in the pyramids tourist photography business, Greek photographer G. [George/Giorgios] M. Georgoulas had the rare opportunity to photograph the delegates of the Cairo Conference (a meeting of Britains’s Middle East experts) in 1921 in front of the pyramids. One of the delegates was British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer T. E. Lawrence, better known as ”Lawrence of Arabia.” who was then working for Winston Churchill.


The Giza Pyramids  had already attracted thousands of tourists in the 19th century. A camel ride around the Pyramids had become an essential part of the tourist program with pictures taken on camelback in front of the pyramids. This stereotype is carried on until the present.

Climbing the Great Pyramid remained an essential Egyptian experience until the mid 1960s, when the Egyptian government banned it on the grounds of safety – although pyramid climbing is still practiced illegally.

In front of the pyramid. Amateur photo, around 1950. Gelatin silver print.

Egypt. Viewmaster reel. 1950s

Zangaki, 1880s, 440. Pyramides. Albumen print.

Photographie Artistique G.[Gabriel] Lekegian, 1880s, Climbing the pyramids. Albumen print.

The Pyramids of Giza. Amateur photo, around 1930. Stereoview negative.


Wilhelm Hammerschmidt, the sphinx, mid 1860s.

Albumen print.

H-. Léon, the sphinx and pyramids, mid 1870s.

Albumen print cabinet card

Stage design for ”La Legende du Nil“ at the Folies Bergère in Paris. Photo by Walery.

Ed. Liesegang, Düsseldorf (ed.), 1910s,

8710 Wunderwerke der Baukunst. Pyramide und Sphinx

Hand-colored glass slide, 8.4 x 8.4cm

All images © by rainworld archive